Japanese firm developing tool to track stray grannies

If all goes as planned at Mitsui & Co., satellites and cellular technology will soon be locating wandering seniors.

Published April 11, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Johnny: "Mom! Grandma's missing again!"

Mom: "Don't worry, dear, the satellite will find her."

This is not a joke. According to Reuters, a Japanese company has come up with a new way to track down grandmas, grandpas and anyone else who forgets where he or she is supposed to be, by using a satellite-based global positioning system and cellular technology.

The device, developed by a firm led by the Mitsui & Co. trading house, works like this: A transmitter is attached to a person's body or clothing. When that person goes missing, concerned relatives -- or the Japanese Foreign Ministry, CIA or KGB -- send in a request to find the wanderer. The transmitter beams the person's "coordinates" to a local server, and his or her location appears on a computerized map.

Mitsui & Co. says it will test the device in Tokyo and Kikuchi City this year, and will launch it in 2001. A company spokesperson told Reuters, "We are definitely expecting a market to develop for the system."

Sure, they'll start with grandmas. But where will it end?

By J.A. Getzlaff

J.A. Getzlaff's Daily Planet appears every weekday. Do you have a tip or tale for J.A.? Send it to DailyPlanet@salon.com.

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